The past and the future combine in this strictly limited release whisky from Gordon & Macphail

Like many spirit aficionados, my daughter and I might heatedly discuss the technicalities of what exactly constitutes as a ‘unicorn’. It is readily acknowledged that it is a rare beast, but rarity does not necessarily begat beauty.

About half a mile east of the A941 south of Elgin stretches Linkwood Road, with the surrounding woodlands hosting an abundance of wildflowers which in turn attract a healthy variety of butterflies and bees. On the grounds the cooling water of the reservoir used to supply Linkwood distillery’s water provides a seasonal home to handsome wagtails, oyster catchers, swans and otters. And it is here several unicorns have been born.

I mention the flora and fauna around the distillery as traditionally Linkwood has held the immediate environment as sacrosanct to the distinctive character of their spirit as the vessels in which it has been made. Indeed, legend had it that a previous manager went as far as to refuse the removal of spider’s webs to preserve the influence of the surroundings.

Naturally times change, and I assume those webs have long been dusted away, along with necessary modifications and modernisations. Pertinently an additional production area – ‘Linkwood B’ – joined the original ‘Linkwood A’ in 1971, with ‘Linkwood A’ ultimately demolished in 2012. Which brings me to the dram I currently hold in my hand: Gordon & Macphail Private Collection Linkwood 1971 Single Cask (aged for 50 years).

Distilled on the Thursday of the 25th of November, this will be a blend of ‘A’ and ‘B’: the increasingly rare liquid from the old no-longer-existing stills, and the very first distillates from the distillery that still remains in operation. Perfectly marking the transition and blending a glimpse into both the past and future, this unicorn is limited to just 166 bottles.

Perhaps influenced by stories of unicorns and Linkwood’s picturesque surroundings, I immediately get a blast of lavender on the wonderfully complex nose, backed up with a honeyed note, a hint of anise and finally thick-cut marmalade at the end. In the mouth the whisky’s voluptuous body continues to carry a floral note – albeit it candied flowers rather than fresh – a hint of pepper in the middle and finally an extremely long tannic finish, not unreminiscent of the final sip of a first flush Darjeeling.

Bottles are on sale exclusively from